Adultery and the Press

June 19, 2000

Suzanne Fields describes a recent study that demonstrates that the press no longer is willing to cover adultery in the lives of politicians and other prominent figures. I guess that shouldn't be too surprising given what has been in the news the last few years. Nevertheless, it demonstrates one more shift in values in our society and especially in the press corps.

The report by the Center for Media and Public Affairs documented the decrease and provides suggestions for why the change is taking place. A study of 2,365 religious news stories in the mainstream media showed that the large majority of sources tilted toward traditional morality in matters of sex (abortion, homosexuality, divorce). But when it came to extra-marital affairs, the researchers found a much different treatment.

When the issue of extramarital sex surfaced in the 1970s and 1980s, 89 percent of those interviewed in the religious stories condemned adultery. By the 1990s, 41 percent actually showed toleration if not approval.

The study suggests that a major reason for this tolerance of adultery can be found in the Oval Office. President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky put the issue in front of Americans every day and had a long-term effect.

But I would also say that we have been moving into a post-modern culture where tolerance is considered the highest value. Almost daily we are instructed to tolerate different perspectives and different lifestyles. Tolerating sexual affairs, I believe, is the natural outgrowth of that over-emphasis on tolerance.

This latest study shouldn't really be a surprise. Adultery has become tolerated because it is no longer rare but routine. And when the president is guilty as well, society adjusted by "tolerating" another sin.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.